Premier Alison Redford has rejected calls for a public inquiry into the tainted beef outbreak at XL Foods.
“From my perspective, I don’t think it’s necessary every time that there is an unfortunate incident, in whatever sphere it might be, that we have to call a public inquiry,” said Redford, in an interview with the Red Deer Advocate on Thursday prior to her appearance at the Premier’s Dinner.
Opposition parties and the union representing workers at the XL Foods plant in Brooks have called for a public probe in recent days.
Redford said lessons will be learned from the incident that saw more than 1,800 products from the company’s Brooks plant recalled across Canada after meat tainted with a strain of E.coli was first discovered on Sept. 3.
“But I don’t think it’s necessary to have a public inquiry in order to learn those lessons,” she said.
On Thursday, the federally regulated plant was reopened to resume limited operations. It had been shut down since Sept. 27.
Alberta Agriculture Minister Verlyn Olson, his federal counterpart Gerry Ritz and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency are working together to ensure beef remains safe.
Redford brushed off criticism that she was not aggressive enough when the tainted meat issue arose.
She made her disappointment clear from the outset that a food producer was not meeting regulations, she said.
“My perspective, and it was the most important thing, was to make sure that the people of Alberta and across this country knew that the quality of beef we were producing in this province was of the highest possible standard, and they should be able to keep consuming that beef and have confidence in what they were eating,” she said.
“And that to me was the fundamental issue. We will stand behind beef producers in this province every step of the way to ensure that we are doing everything we can to ensure there is consumer confidence in the product.
“Me, standing up and banging my fist and criticizing a commercial enterprise isn’t going to get it open any faster.”
The other big challenge her government has faced in the last four months has been the Plains Midstream Canada oil spill in the Red Deer River in June.
Redford was encouraged that the environmental impact was not as bad as initially feared when up to 3,000 barrels of light sour crude oil spilled into the river just north of Sundre.
Alberta Energy Minister Ken Hughes has launched an independent review of pipeline safety with input from industry players and the Energy Resources Conservation Board.
The premier said she is “very confident” in the integrity of the province’s pipelines, but it is important for the government to get ahead of any potential issues and that companies are held accountable.
Some have called for stricter regulations governing pipelines, especially for river crossings.
Redford said the review will look at those kinds of issues, but she wouldn’t speculate on whether tougher rules will be coming.